The King County Council recently adopted the 2009 budget. It was the toughest budget in recent memory. A $93 million hole was filled by making tough choices, but the worst is yet to come. On top of these historic cuts, the county executive estimates that 2010 will bring another very large deficit.
County leaders must start working on reducing expenses now to have an impact on the 2010 budget. The budget was balanced using the executive’s proposed “life boat” strategy. Executive Ron Sims proposed to fund some programs for six months while he lobbies the Legislature for a new tax increase to fund general government services.
I do not support a new tax increase at this time of financial distress. New taxes will not help our economy recover, and it will not help people who are struggling to make ends meet.
That being said, I supported this budget because of what we were able to save. My priorities for this budget were fiscal discipline and public safety.
I was able to convince my colleagues on the council to create a working group to study the idea of creating a counter-cyclical reserve fund that would save money during good economic times so as to offset service reductions when the economy declines.
In addition, the council restored $2.5 million in funding to the sheriff’s office. Working with council member Julia Patterson, I was able to preserve critical human service funding for south King County. Overall, I was pleased with the services that the council determined to preserve.
There are more storm clouds on the horizon, however. 2010 could see a budget deficit almost as large. Instead of lobbying the Legislature for new taxes, King County leaders should use the next few months looking for savings that will reduce future deficits.